World’s Most Compact and Lightweight SAR Satellite Publishes its First Radar Image

Based on its recent satellite launch, ICEYE has now published the first radar image obtained from its ICEYE-X1 SAR satellite. The image depicts Noatak National Preserve, Alaska, on Monday Jan. 15, at 21:47 UTC. ICEYE-X1 is the world's first SAR satellite under 100 kg, launched less than a week ago on January 12, 2018 on ISRO's PSLV-C40 from Satish Dhawan Space Center in India.

A synthetic-aperture radar (SAR) instrument sends its own radio waves to the ground, creating an image from the energy that scatters back to the instrument. Given this, SAR sensors can provide imaging of the Earth during both day and night, regardless of cloud cover and weather condition. Conventional SAR satellites typically weigh in excess of 1000 kg due to the amount of instrumentation on board. However ICEYE's solution weighs less than 100 kg.

The ICEYE-X1 is ICEYE's first satellite mission. Both the satellite bus and the SAR instrument were developed and integrated by ICEYE. It is a significant shift in size from traditional SAR satellites, allowing the technology to be condensed into a satellite weighing under 100 kg. This in turn enables launching a constellation of many satellites rather than only a few.

The full image transmitted to the ground from ICEYE-X1 exceeded 1.2 GB of raw data and spans an area of roughly 80 x 40 km on the ground. The satellite obtained the image in the span of ten seconds, traveling at a speed of more than 7.5 km/s and at an altitude exceeding 500 km. Matching what ICEYE simulated prior to the launch, the final data resolution from the first satellite reaches 10 x 10 meters. With this single image, the mission is already a full success regarding ICEYE’s most important goals. They are now working to increase the range of incidence angles and to more than double the ground resolution for ICEYE-X2 which they expect to launch by next summer.

ICEYE-X1 has been successfully communicating with the ground since 05:20 UTC, Jan 12th, using both S-band and X-band for transmission. Telemetry data exchanged with the satellite in the first 100 orbits has already reached more than 1GB, surpassing a critical milestone for the mission. ICEYE is now moving towards the calibration of its SAR instrument and increasing image quality in orbit. The mission is progressing with a timeline faster than all expectations and after the initial SAR instrument calibration is finished, they will start operational pilot imaging services for first customers.